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Table Talk: Vayikra

Back to the Beginning: “Adam – a man, who wants to bring an offering to draw closer to God,” Rashi wonders about the choice of the word, Adam rather than Ish. He explains that God is teaching us that “Just as Adam, the primal human being, did not bring an offering from something that was stolen, as everything was his, so too, you should never bring an offering from something stolen.” All the way back to Adam. How interesting! The Altar was called Mizbach Adamah – An Altar of Earth – because the center was hollow and was filled with earth from the same spot from which God took the earth to form Adam. The Altar is where we go all the way back to the beginning, when all was right, when all was perfect, when all was pure. We go back to Adam. That is the Korban – the Drawing Close. Would this be true of all sacrifices, or only a sin offering? Would this be true of communal offerings as well? Is there a difference between an Olah – Burnt Offering – and a Shelamim – Peace Offering?



Something has changed: Rashi begins his commentary on the portion by teaching us that: “Each time that God spoke to, or said something to Moshe, He began by calling to him, in a loving manner, just as the angels are described by Isaiah as calling to each other before singing their praises of God.” Something has changed: We recall that in the final moments before the Revelation the verse (Exodus 19:19) says: “Moshe would speak and God would respond to him with a voice.” At Sinai, before Revelation, Moshe spoke first. In the Tabernacle, it was God, Who lovingly called out to Moshe. Something changed. Why? There is an interesting Zohar (Vaeira 25b) that says, “The “Dibbur” – God’s Word –was in exile, so to speak, together with Israel. When Israel was redeemed, the Dibbur was freed as well.” This concept reflects the Zohar’s (Volume 1 4b-5a) understanding of the difference between Torah Sh’bichtav and Torah Sh’Baal Peh – The Written and Oral Laws. “I will place My words in your mouth in order to plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth,” (Isaiah 51:16) The Written Law is Machashava – The Highest Thought – expressed in words. The Oral Law is formed from words that are transformed into Machashava – The Highest Thought. The Oral Law is the manifestation of the Freedom of Dibbur – Speech: it is the power of speech to be transformed into Torah, into the Highest Thought. The Written Law can only begin in Machashava – God’s Infinite Thought. He then called to Moshe to make the Thought accessible as Dibbur – or, words. However, God wanted Moshe to first understand the power of Dibbur – to appreciate the Freedom of Speech, therefore, in the final moments before the Revelation, it was Moshe who spoke, and God transformed the words into Machashava. Why did God choose Offerings as the springboard to introduce these important ideas about the Written and Oral Laws?


“Speak to the Children of Israel, saying: When a soul will sin unintentionally from among all the commandments of God that may not be done, and he commits one of them.” “If the anointed Kohen will sin,” “When a ruler sins, and commits one from among all the commandments of God his Lord that may not be done – unintentionally – and becomes guilty.” “When” Rabbeinu Ovadiah Seforno says that it is likely that a leader will sin. A person, a soul, the anointed Cohen and a leader will sin. We are not perfect. We make mistakes. We make the wrong choices. We act without thinking – unintentionally. These, all, in the portion in which God calls out with love. God expresses this deep and incredible love despite the fact that all, the person, the Cohen and the leader will sin. There’s more: Rashi translates “Asher” – “When” – as Ashrei: The generation whose leader seeks atonement even for his unintentional sins is fortunate for he will surely repent his intentional sins. God is calling to those who are willing to acknowledge even their unintentional mistakes. Our response to God’s love despite our sins is to acknowledge them, and to seek to repair this loving relationship. How do these ideas reflect the concept that prayer has replaced the sacrifices?

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